In most locales, renters have a right to working utilities in their homes. Whether you or your landlord in Washington is responsible for paying for utility bills, you still should be able to live in your rental unit with heat, electricity and running water kept in reasonable repair.
Who is responsible for paying?
Tenant law requires that your lease specify who is responsible for paying utility bills. For instance, some landlords specify that you are responsible for paying for electricity while the landlord pays for natural gas. If you share the cost of utilities with your landlord, your landlord should inform you of how the percentage of your bill is calculated. Knowing who is responsible for paying a utility bill is essential if you are threatened with a utility shutoff.
What if a landlord fails to pay utilities?
If your landlord is responsible for paying utility bills, yet you receive a shut-off notice, you can take the necessary steps to ensure that your home will remain habitable. Washington state law indicates that tenants can prevent utilities from being turned off or allow them to be turned back on if the bill is put in the tenant’s name.
Sometimes, landlords will turn off utilities to force tenant evictions. This tactic is illegal and one that tenants should take action against.
Recourse if your home is not habitable
Every tenant has a right to a habitable home. If your landlord is not providing you with a safe, livable environment, you have the right to file legal papers to terminate the lease.
Note that unpaid utility bills could be an indicator that your landlord is in foreclosure. If this is the case, you should take steps to protect yourself in the event of an untimely forced move.